|Susegad by Clyde D'Souza |
Penguin Books, Rs 399
Monday, August 2, 2021
Friday, October 23, 2020
Monday, October 19, 2020
Things seemed settled after rather turbulent rains. The clouds had left the sky blue, and multiple hues of green had covered the land. Gangu knew the Chilar must be calling, its crystal clear flows inviting girls to engage with her in some water games.
Much before she could pronounce, Dhurpi, Thaki, Rakshmi, Janni and Kanti were ready to head for the river with their share of stuff to carry. In their early teens, it was that part of the year this bubbly bunch awaited with excitement for being in Karjat.
As girls raced ahead dancing and giggling, the familiar setting echoed the past with its melancholic unease for Gangu. Twice their age, she was still ferrying the girls to the riverfront while all her peers had moved out with their grooms. Why?
Is she short of feminine attributes or is the lady luck taking time to smile on her? Her thoughts were speared by a loud call by one among the bunch ordering others to take their positions along the riverfront, to set themselves up for a day of fun and frolic.
Gangu inspected shallow waters for depth and clarity, to lay trap for catching muri. For her and rest of her clan, what was a freshwater loach to others was an enticing delicacy. She often wondered how her Katkari tribe would survive if there were no muri!
Kanti had led the group to scout for slimy snails and small crabs to set the bait for unsuspecting muri. Placing the crushed bait beneath few stones placed on a black pan, the entrapment was carefully lowered in shallow waters for muri to forage upon.
The crystal clear waters flowing at a leisurely pace allowed muri the so-called free lunch as the girls went about washing muddy clothes and dirty utensils. With few muri busy taking the bait, the pan would be slowly lifted out of water for the first of many such harvests.
With sumptuous pickings from different locations, Gangu was ready to feed the girls with delicious muri cooked over a makeshift stove. By the time the girls had danced around and the clothes had dried, the catch was enough to take back for the household.
Little did it occur to any in the bubbly bunch that they were learning a rather unique practice of catching small fish that would often evade fish nets? That they could learn the trick while at play has been an unwritten virtue of such informal schooling.
While treading home after a busy day, Gangu thought for herself if she too was not one among the unsuspecting muri who awaited someone to cast a bait for her. Was she ready to give herself up for someone’s consumption, she wasn’t sure yet.
- Sudhirendar Sharma
(Rajeev Khedkar, who has spent a lifetime working for securing land rights for Katkari in Raigad, has helped provide the basic framework for this short story).
The short story is based on the daily life of Katkari girls, the once forest people living in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra (Raigad and Thane), with a special relationship to forest creatures such as the tiger and carried the sir name of ‘waghmare’, (wagh = tiger, mare = slayer; so tiger slayer). Today this tribe is highly dependent on others for their livelihoods and for a place to live. Most Katkari are landless with only periodic and tenuous connections to their original nomadic, forest-based livelihoods. Many have become bonded laborers working on the brick kilns/charcoal units serving the urban and industrial interests of Greater Mumbai. Their special skills in freshwater fishing, hunting of small mammals/birds remain exclusive.
Friday, July 31, 2020
|The Malin Memorial: author (in hat) with Pandurang Hegde|
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Monday, November 27, 2017
|..with Latha on the sidelines of the historic Kotagiri meeting.|
(Pic: Vinay Aditya)
Laughter, it is said, is the shortest distance between two people, and we had shortened it further in our first meeting itself. Latha and Unni lived their life to the fullest, enjoying every moment of their activists' identity. I was lucky to have had their presence at several 'water' events within the country, and abroad. 'Laughter' was the signature tune of our friendship. Without their untiring contributions, we (me, Pandu and Kalanand) could not have revived the historic Save Western Ghats Movement (of the mid-80s). What followed (the Gadgil Committee) thereafter is history. Need it be said that Latha had played a stellar role in all the public hearings that the Committee conducted through the region. She stood true to her name - Latha Anantha - the endless Latha!
I'm indeed privileged to have drawn the attention of the Ashoka Fellowship towards her untiring efforts to save the Chalakudy river from yet another dam at Athirapally. I had pushed hard for the fellowship to be bestowed on the couple, Unni being the silent Buddha behind all that Latha could accomplish, and proving on the contrary that 'behind every successful woman there is a man'. Latha used to read zodiac signs, and I would often find her checking up with Unni about her interpretations. They don't make couple like this anymore!
In all my visits to Kerala, Latha and Unni had given me an unconditional company. After her winning the first bout against cancer, we did meet in Calicut in early 2015 during first of the inter-faith dialogues we had planned across the region. But her situation had deteriorated thereafter, and the news of her inevitable departure had seemed a matter of time. When I had got a message from Unni at around 10 PM on the night of Nov 15, 2017, I had prayed that she dies only on Nov 16. The reason I had wanted her to depart on Nov 16 was that that is the day I was born. So, as long as I'm alive I'll remember her. That's how she helped define our sweet and sour friendship of over 15 years.
(My sincere apologies to Madhu and Sreeja, who are now a happily married couple.)
Sunday, July 23, 2017
|1988: The march that was|
'For some reasons, it has come to my realization that pleasure and pain, and in somewhat similar tone paradise and hell co-exist. Paradoxically, neither is complete without the other. Not without reason, therefore, has man understood that suffering, if confronted without fear, is his passport to freedom. There is a volume of literature which indicates that pain indeed complements pleasure, prompting people through the ages to inflict pain as a way of attaining freedom, a celebration of life. A Treatise in Self-flagellation, published in 1718, shows how to achieve pleasure through pain, but without harming the body. In ancient Greece, the finest Spartan warriors were whipped once a year, from morning till night, in homage to the goddess Artemia, while the crowd urged them on, calling on them to withstand the pain with dignity, for it was preparing them for the world of war. At the end of the day, the priests would examine the wounds on the warriors' backs and use them to predict the city's future.'
The contours of the resilient ecosystem of the Western Ghats, and the emerging challenges posed by persistent obsession with development calls for the young spartans of the Sahyadri to prepare themselves for protecting the unsuspecting people, flora and fauna of the region, yet again.
(the text in italics is from the Preface to the book Sahyadri: Reminiscences and Reflections, 2009, Prakruti. Limited copies of the colorful book are available from firstname.lastname@example.org).